I started this post on the 27th January to commemorate/commiserate the one year anniversary of the first confirmed Covid-19 case in Australia. But these posts always take me longer to write than I think they will.
The last Covid Chronicles was in mid December, just as the Northern Beaches cluster was starting. Over the Christmas/NY period the Northern Beaches were in lockdown for about three weeks. A smaller cluster popped up in Berala but by then the contact tracing system had most of the positive cases under their wings.
Greater Sydney folk were finally mandated to wear masks in all shops and on public transport, something many of us were doing by then anyway, but as the Northern Beaches outbreak worsened, the state government finally caught up to public sentiment. Socialising at home with no greater than 10 visitors allowed, once again became the rule, throwing many Christmas plans into disarray.
The start of the cluster was traced back to the 1st December and a female traveller flying in from the United States. But how it got to the Belrose Hotel in Avalon by the 10th Dec is still unknown. There was much speculation at the time about quarantine exempt people (i.e. embassy and airline staff) but all of them came back with negative results.
At the height of the outbreak the week before Christmas, 31 new cases were being recorded in one day. But by the New Year, things dropped off dramatically. An extraordinary number of people had been tested in the lead up to Christmas and the contact tracers were all over any new cases very quickly. By the middle of January we had once again reached zero new community cases.
Two weeks later (now three), we are still at zero new community cases, although anywhere from 5-10 new cases are coming into NSW from international flights every day. Hotel quarantine seems to be keeping things contained but as we all know, this is not a perfect system. Human error can occur and the virus has a way of getting through every now and again, no matter how vigilant we are. It’s just how things are right now.
Just after I wrote the above, a new quarantine hotel breach occurred. This time in Perth, WA.
It seems that a hotel quarantine worker has contracted the super-contagious variant of the virus from someone returning from the UK. When asked why it was necessary to lockdown an entire city for one case, three reasons were given, the first being the UK variant factor. The second was the high number of places the infected worker had visited in the 2-3 days between contacting the virus, feeling unwell and being tested and the third factor was the extremely long time between positive community cases in Perth.
This extended period of no Covid meant that Perthians had been going about their business in an almost pre-Covid-like manner, which is not surprising given how long they had been Covid-free (almost ten months). But it also meant that the contact tracing teams had been on the lowdown. The hope is that the five day lockdown will give the tracers enough time to get on top of the situation. (Since writing this last week, Perth has faced bigger problems with a bush fire destroying over 80 homes).
Once again, we are reminded how quickly things can go pear-shaped. Human error and an ever-mutating virus means that this is a long way from being over. A vaccine will certainly help to slow things down, but it’s a cure or preventative, that is needed to stop this virus for good.
After three weeks of no new cases in NSW, many of the rules have eased again. Masks are still mandatory for public transport and I still prefer to wear one in the supermarket, but elsewhere we can go mask-free. Which is such a relief on these warm, humid summer days.
Victorians are facing a few scares as they build up to the beginning of the Australian Open on the 8th February. All the players, coaches and managers wishing to attend, arrived several weeks ago to allow for the 2 week mandatory hotel quarantine period. A number arrived with Covid, a few complained on social media about the conditions, but most seemed to have accepted the terms of entry and are now delighted to be out in a community, all-but Covid-free. Something they cannot enjoy in their home countries right now.
Melburnians are understandable nervous about hosting this event after their extended winter lockdown. No-one would want to return to that again.
Murmurings are now afoot about the Federal Government playing a bigger role in the quarantining process for international returns, instead of leaving it all to the states to manage. After enjoying an extended period of time, where Covid was politics-free, everyone seems to have reverted back to type and every action is considered a political act rather than a health and safety one. It’s disappointing, but perhaps inevitable, to see that Covid politics has become a thing.
I’ll finish this post with a few stats pulled from the Australian Department of Health website.
Population of Australia: 25,570,885
- Total Covid cases: 28 842
- Total deaths: 909
Victoria state population: 6 689 000
- Covid cases: 20 456
- Deaths: 820
NSW state population: 8 158 000
- Covid cases: 5 117
- Deaths: 54
The population of Australia is between the state populations of Texas (28,995,881) and Florida (21,477,737).
- Texas has had 2 483 415 Covid cases and 39 136 deaths.
- Florida has had 1 763 873 cases and 27 460 deaths.
Unfortunately, the country with almost the same population as Australia, is North Korea, and they have not shared their covid figures so no comparison can be made.
The city of London has a similar population to NSW.
- They have had 664 836 covid case and 13 239 deaths.
It’s hard to know what to say after that.
We, in Australia, are very aware of our fortunate situation. We’re all living pretty quiet, stay-at-home kind of lives, but we can go to cafes and restaurants with appropriate social distancing measures in place and QR check-in codes. Many people are still working from home, but schools are back for the new year and domestic holidays are all the go. Although planning anything interstate is risky, with borders that can and will close with less than 24 hrs notice.
We’re all living with the knowledge that we’re just one sneeze away from the possibility of another hotel quarantine breach. But both the Northern Beaches cluster and the Perth scare have shown that any breach can be quickly brought under control with contact tracing and various localised lockdown measures.
I confess, that when I listen to our health professionals discuss the various outbreaks and what measures are required and why, I am so impressed by their calm statement of facts and science. Their ability to pinpoint which person had the genome sequence responsible for the latest outbreak and to then trace back all the contacts that person may have had during their infectious period, is incredible.
I have learnt to avoid the news outlets and politicians as much as possible, and I stick to health officials for my updates.
But how are you doing? And your family and friends? Where are you in the world and how is your town/city/state coping with the virus? Are you in lockdown? Have you been vaccinated yet? Are you back at work or school? I’d really like to know.
Take care; take heart.